New Green Tree police chief right at home

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Green Tree police Chief Robert Downey Jr. has been the borough's top cop for just six weeks, but he already feels at home.

"I think it's a great community. The people are real nice," he said. "It's just about everything I expected it to be."

Although he said he's still learning the names of some streets in the 2-square-mile borough, Chief Downey likes what he sees of his new workplace. The residents are friendly, the borough is well-maintained and he's happy with his 10-member department, he said.

Because of his nearly 33 years as a police officer, he knows many of the other chiefs in the area, which adds to his comfort level.

Chief Downey, 56, said he has been interested in police work since childhood.

"I always wanted to be a cop as a kid," he recalled.

He passed the test to become an Allegheny County police officer while working as an assistant purchasing director for the Carlton House Hotel, which was imploded in Downtown in 1980.

He worked 28 years for the county, eventually serving as commander of a unit of 40 police officers who investigated a wide variety of crimes. He went on to become police chief at Slippery Rock University and most recently was director of public safety at California University of Pennsylvania.

In December, he was hired unanimously as Green Tree chief, chosen from a field of more than 40 candidates.

"Mr. Downey set himself apart," Councilman David Rea said at the time of the hiring.

Although he concedes that he misses the college environment with its accompanying athletic events, Chief Downey doesn't regret making the move to Green Tree's police department.

"I always had a great relationship with the kids, but I really enjoy being here," he said. "I wouldn't have come here if I didn't think it would be a good fit."

Chief Downey hasn't made any policy revisions or additions yet, and he's not sure he will have to do much.

"There will probably be some minor updates, but I don't think there will be [the need for] any major changes," he said.

Besides his police background, Chief Downey brings an additional element to Green Tree because of his service as an elected council member in Baldwin Township, where he lives with his wife.

"Everybody [there] seems to like the fact that I'm working here," he said.

Fittingly, he is chairman of the Baldwin commissioners' public safety committee and is its representative to the Medical Rescue Team South Authority.

He holds criminal justice degrees from La Roche College and Cincinnati University and enjoys sports, writing and teaching.

He and his wife have three grown children, one grandchild and another grandchild expected in April.

neigh_west - neigh_south

Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: First Published March 7, 2013 9:45 AM


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